How to fly like you’re in first class

Even if you don't have the points to gly in first class, it's still possible to fly like you're in first class. Photo by Suhyeon Choi.
Even if you don’t have the points to gly in first class, it’s still possible to fly like you’re in first class. Photo by Suhyeon Choi.

Nothing beats flying in first class. The perks make the flying experience so much better: free food and drinks, entertainment systems, pillows and blankets and lounge access to name a few.

While flying in first class for a lot of us is made possible thanks to points and miles, it still takes a lot of points and miles to get in the front of the plane!

Thankfully, there are ways to fly like you’re in first class without emptying your mileage accounts.


Get the right airline credit card

As we’ve written about in the past, credit cards have perks beyond bonus categories.

If you booked an actual first-class fare, it would come with checked bags. However, many airline credit cards also come along with free checked bags.

Airline credit cards can score you discounts on in-flight food and beverage, as well.

If you really want to go all-out, purchase an airline cocktail kit and make yourself a nice drink at 30,000 feet!

While first-class tickets come with free checked bags and food and drinks, credit cards can also provide similar benefits.


Bring your own entertainment system

The easiest way to make a long flight not to feel like forever is to keep yourself entertained. Thankfully, this is the easiest and most impactful thing you can do. A couple of things that I swear by – a good pair of headphones and a tablet.

Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Purchasing a set of Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones will make you feel like you're flying in first class.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones will make you feel like you’re flying in first class.

They aren’t cheap, but I won’t go anywhere without my Bose QuietComfort headphones. I used to think it was dumb to 1) own noise-canceling headphones and 2) spend more than $40 on a set.

But, once you experience the magic of noise-canceling headphones, you won’t ever be able to live without them on a flight. Crying babies, talkative neighbors or roaring engines will no longer interrupt you.

Trust me when I tell you these will make a huge difference. I’m not just blowing hot air so you use my link to purchase them. They are awesome.

Apple iPad or Amazon Fire Tablet

Now that you have your headphones, you need something to stream content! While you could use your phone, tablets are so much cheaper than they used to be.

The most popular tablet is the iPad. Yes, it isn’t cheap, but if you fly a good bit you will get your money’s worth pretty quickly. It goes without mentioning that you can get use for it when you’re not flying too!

The Amazon Fire 7 Tablet will set you back just $50.
The Amazon Fire 7 Tablet will set you back just $50.

Another option would be getting an Amazon Fire Tablet. The purpose of an Amazon Fire Tablet is to stream and entertain, so it’s a perfect match. The good news is they start at less than $50. There are many different options and styles, but if you want something reliable to stream on, an Amazon tablet could be your best bet.

Many airlines will have content for its passengers to watch for free but passengers need to have a streaming device.

If you don’t want to watch the airline-provided entertainment, with both tablets, you can download Netflix and Amazon Prime shows to watch them offline as long as you have an active account. If you don’t, do not worry because both have free trials to let you try them out!

Portable Charger

It might sound obvious, but you’re not going to want to run out of power on your streaming device. While some airlines like Alaska Air have outlets at every seat, a lot of airlines don’t. There are a ton of great options to purchase chargers to keep your devices alive!

I own two of these, but the Anker PowerCore 20100mAh – Ultra High Capacity Power Bank is one of my favorite electronics that I own. I don’t need nearly the power it provides, but I love charging it before a trip, and not having to worry about it until I get home. It gets me 4-5 full phone charges for my iPhone.

If you want something cheaper, there are plenty of options for less than $25:


Buy food before your flight

Here’s the obvious one: buy food and drinks ahead of time! Airline food isn’t good unless you’re on a posh international airline.

The $20-30 you spend on a nice to-go meal and a beverage before getting your flight is not only going to be cheaper than a first-class dinner, but it’s most likely going to be better!


Get lounge access with a credit card

You don’t need to fly first class to get lounges access. Popular credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum Card come with Priority Pass access.

Priority Pass consists of a network of lounges around the World. There won’t be a lounge at every airport, but they will be in a handful of airports.

Credit cards with Priority Pass access

Credit cards with other lounge access

  • American Express Platinum (Centurion Lounges. Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta)
  • Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard (Admirals Club when flying American Airlines)
  • Delta Reserve Card from American Express (Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta)
  • United Club Card (United Club)
  • United Explorer Card (2 passes each year to United Club after the first year)

Bring your comfort items

A first-class seat will typically come with pillows and blankets. It might also include an amenity kit, eye cover or even a lie-flat seat.

You’re not going to get a lie-flat seat in coach, however, you can easily bring the following items to make your journey more comfortable.

Neck Pillow

What’s a red eye without a neck pillow? First-class has fancy headrests. Bring your own by purchasing a neck pillow!

The MLVOC Travel Pillow is made from memory foam and is oversized which makes it comfortable. What makes it even better is it’s machine washable so it’s easy to clean it. This very affordable travel pillow also comes with an eye mask.

If you want some other options, check these out:

Footrest

The best first-class seats are basically beds. You’re not going to get a bed in economy class, but with an incline and one of these handy foot slings, you can have some support for your legs.

The Foot Hammock Travel Footrest hangs from the tray table and can keep your legs from cramping and being uncomfortable on a long flight.

If you want some other options, check these out:

Sleeping Eye Mask

Never trust that the airlines will keep the lights off for the duration of your flight. Not worth the risk. Nothing worse than being in a deep slumber and the lights waking you up 45 minutes prior to landing. Invest in an eye mask.

Final Thoughts

Yes, flying in first class and business class is the dream, but it’s very possible to avoid the misery of economy class. While using certain credit cards can also help you beat basic economy fares, it’s not hard to feel like you’re flying upfront either.

Even when using points and miles to save money on flights, your miles can go much further when not splurging for a premium cabin.

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